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Blog: I am constantly learning

Updated: Dec 8, 2021

I am constantly learning. When I can learn, I feel good. In order to be able to learn, I must in turn also feel good.


We see this in children, how naturally learning can take place when they feel safe. How easy learning can be when they feel relaxed and free. I can still remember how my children worked for hours on a craftsproject, finding new, creative solutions to "problems", as long as they were not hungry, there were enough materials and there were few outside distractions. And as long as they felt they could do what they wanted, without judgements or expectations.


We still experience this deepening in learning as adults when something really interests us, when we feel it is important, or when we are faced with a problem that needs to be solved. We learn to broaden our horizons, to add new skills to those we already have, to have better opportunities at work, or simply to experience ourselves in a new way. Even as adults, we need emotional security in order to really absorb something new and put it into practice.


A large part of the learning in my workshops and trainings takes place through engagement with the body. Moving, creating, touching are immediate experiences that demand not only our mental, but our entire physical and emotional attention. I experience again and again that when I give participants physically challenging tasks, they are often more intensely engaged than when it is "only" a theoretical task. The participants often develop a certain ambition, an alertness in playful, social tasks, which is often missing in purely verbal assignments. (I think theoretical inputs are totally important, especially on a training level, but before that you need your own experience).


The neurobiologist Gerald Hüther talks about the fact that something has to "get under the skin" so that it remains sustainably registered in the brain. We can store facts and things in the short term, but we only "grasp" them when we have sensed them. This is exactly what we experience again and again in Holistic Dance. If I experience a new quality of encounter or being in a holistic way, our whole system understands it. It may need reflection, repetition and more facets to it, but we get it.


However, many of us have had experiences, both in childhood and as adults, where evaluations have ruined a free learning experience for us. "Funny" comments, derogatory comments, rolling eyes, or just plain hurtful criticism from teachers, parents, colleagues, or bosses can leave deep wounds in us and interrupt any creative flow. A cynical remark from the father when the 12 year old son wants to learn ballet, the impatience of a piano teacher, the snorting of a boss in a team meeting. A perhaps even well-intentioned sentence from the painting teacher at school "that's not right..." can often be enough to anchor a belief system like "I can't paint" for life. We know many such scenarios that end with us believing "this won't work, so I won't do it either"...


Learning something new in a relaxed way needs room for failure. And for that, the inelegant, bumpy, repeating, delicious failure. We need loving attention from our teachers, we need role models who exemplify that failure is part of the whole, and we need courage to face and challenge our beliefs. Holistic learning takes us to our limits and to consciously expand these limits, it needs safe, free and held spaces.



(c) Olga Berdikyan

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